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Washington 11, America 8, Romney 6, Us 6, Dick Cheney 5, Karl Rove 3, George W. Bush 3, Andrea Mitchell 3, Grover Norquist 3, Lockheed Martin 3, Europe 3, U.s. 3, Limbaugh 2, Starbucks 2, Fbi 2, George H.w. Bush 2, Obama Administration 2, Jeremiah Wright 2, Unitedhealthcare Insurance Company 2, Hugo 2,
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  MSNBC    NOW With Alex Wagner    News/Business. Alex Wagner.  
   Forces driving the day's stories. New.  

    July 18, 2012
    9:00 - 9:59am PDT  

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can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him release his tax returns. it's wednesday, july 18th and this is "now." joining me today, msnbc political analyst and georgetown university professor, michael eric dyson. rona throohar of "time" magazine and "new york times" magazine editor, mr. sunday morning himself, hugo lindgren. what do these people have in common? congressman ron paul, former mississippi governor haley barbour, senator olympia snow, bill kristol and george will, the editorial board of the national review and governor rick perry?
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aside from all being republicans, this is one thing. >> i'm a big believer that no matter who you are or what office you're running for, you should be as transparent as you can be with your tax returns. >> but not all republicans believe governor romney should release his tax returns, especially vp possibilities like tim pawlenty and rob portman. senator john mccain, a romney surrogate, also doesn't think the public needs to see the tax returns, saying i can personally vouch for the fact that there was nothing in his tax returns that would in any way be disqualifying for him to be a candidate. bells and whistles, david, that's what this show is about. but really, we are starting to see some rank breaking, if you will, among conservatives calling for romney to release his tax returns. how long can this go on? >> until election day. because the metaphor i've been using, imperfect, i'll grant you, is romney has a choice
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between a slow bleeding wound and opening up his chest cavity. if those are your two choices, sometimes you'll take the slow bleeding wound. there's a good theory out there that was written about in "the atlantic" the other day. "business week," excuse me. used to be "the atlantic." saying that there's a possibility after the '07-08 crash that he paid absolutely no taxes, and that's one thing he just can't release. i think a millionaire republican candidate who paid zero taxes could not survive. the other thing is -- >> i think you're right about citing josh's theory but you don't think he can survive that? >> i think you don't even need 30 seconds for that ad. you need about seven seconds. this guy paid -- this guy makes millions of dollars every year, he paid no taxes, you get a deal like that, i don't think so. >> do you want to elect him president. >> absolutely. it cuts into this core strategy and it was a terrible strategic
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mistake that he made playing to americans' aspirational nature. we are aspirational. we're willing to tolerate a lot more inequality in this country -- >> i aspire to pay no taxes. >> but the thing is, only if the system's not broken. he proves that it is. >> you can't be the leader of the free world, you can't be talking all this fiscal responsibility and conservatism without at the same time acknowledging you goofed up in terms of trying to avoid everything. we said that's the american way to avoid but not as a leader. as a leader you try to bring parity and fairness. you don't have to be concerned about that as leader of a business. you have to be concerned about that when president of the united states. >> here's the problem. we're already talking about this. he's going to have to do something. i think he's got to rip the band-aid off. >> we know the olympics are coming up, romney will be going for horse ballet, dressage, to london. >> i think there's a hope he doesn't win that one, he doesn't want the gold. >> the horse dressage gold and
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tax returns is not exactly a one-two punch. david, vintage fernstrom from 2002, hitting romney rival during the race for not releasing her husband's tax returns. her hands are not clean, she can't claim to be disclosing anything until she discloses the returns of her husband, the enron lobbyist, what is she hiding. among republicans, how romney is running his campaign, 66% have a favorable view, 24% have an unfavorable view. >> listen, you know that i have been doing a lot of reporting on his finances, and i can keep a team of reporters busy, 100 reporters busy between now and election day on the basis of what's already been released. if he puts out his taxes, there are people who will just have a field day. it will be a road map to romneyland, which is a very
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strange mysterious place where r.a.s turn out to be worth $102 million. >> it's not like we don't know a lot already. >> yeah, but i think you balance that against not releasing it. we will keep talking about it. other people will keep talking about it. his own republican allies are falling like flies and if you've got george will on morning television on sunday coming at you -- >> the editorial board of the national review is calling for him -- >> he knows all this and he said just the other day that he won't do it. he knows his taxes better than we do. better than his campaign. when i talked to his campaign about various deals that i report on, it's clear to me they have no clue. they have to go and spend a day or two researching it themselves. it's very complicated. i think they're scared. >> it all comes back down to mitt romney and mitt romney making the decision, doing a classic cost-benefit analysis, am i going to be a greater risk once i released the tax returns or can i try to weather this. >> i wonder what's the precedent
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for someone holding the line against this kind of pressure on issues like this. is there one? >> there isn't one. but i still think the cost may be higher particularly if it's true, if josh's theory is true that he paid no taxes, zero taxes, not 7% but zero, if that's the case -- >> worse than somebody saying like the obama administration what's he hiding. the implication is what's he hiding is not simply about not paying any taxes. it's always some kind of nefarious implication around there. he can clarify it by taking the hit. >> this is the difference, professor. the issue of releasing taxes or not becomes what people in politics call a process issue. it doesn't impact people at home that much, but someone not paying taxes and making a million dollars, you get a visceral reaction. >> this is becoming like a prolonged game of "clue," was it with the rope, was it with the candlestick. >> was it with the account in the cayman islands. >> is it about no taxes, about giving more than we thought to the mormon church. is it just about the wealth.
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nonetheless -- >> the fact you're raising those questions opens him to so many other spokes of the wheel as opposed to one big hit, yeah, i didn't pay any taxes as opposed to all this other stuff. >> we do need to talk about how the romney campaign is responding and they are definitely putting things out in the ether. the question is whether any of them stick. there is a new line of attack directed towards the president which is about the president saying if you've started businesses, you did not build them yourself. i'm really terribly paraphrasing. this is based on, we will play the sound first, then talk to you about what romney is saying vis a vis the president's statement. >> if you are successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. there was a great teacher somewhere in your life. somebody helped to create this unbelievable american system that we have that allowed you to thrive. somebody invested in roads and bridges. if you got a business, you
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didn't build that. somebody else made that happen. >> from that, the romney campaign has gleaned this line of attack. >> to say that steve jobs didn't build apple, that henry ford didn't build ford motor, that papa john didn't build papa john pizza is to say something like that, is not just foolishness. it's insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in america and it's wrong. >> to say that little caesar did not build little caesar's pizza? >> don't forget the keebler elves. >> there's a romney fund-raising e-mail, saying comments like the president's are a slap in the face to the american dream. >> oh, my god. >> listen, i don't know where to start with this. first, attacking the president's americanism, you know, off the tax issue? hello. number one. also, boot strapping on your own, this mythology that
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everybody can just make it on their own in america. hello, mitt romney had every possible safety net that there is to have. >> my god -- >> i went to where mr. romney went a few years later and i saw the kids being dropped off in their lincoln town cars and sedans. they weren't taking the bus. beyond that, this is the american principle. what about there but for the grace of god go i? what about the notion when martin luther king said when you get up in the morning you're drinking coffee from someone who worked in a south american country. what about the connectivity, about the communal value of our own lives? >> i do want to ask you this, hugo. you specifically and only you. no. everyone can chime in on this. quickly, what that says to me, it's like a bet against the american intellect. that somehow, you're going to throw this bait out there and the scrum and people will say yeah, yeah, yeah, the president isn't a real american, he
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doesn't understand. >> the truth is i think there's a really serious idealogical issue here which i think is not well expressed by what was just shown here and what the president said and what mitt romney responded with. there's really two different views of the american economy. one is the american economy is workers and one is the american economy is customers. the republicans and romney are really on the side of customers and the idea of like you do things, you cut jobs if you have to, you outsource, you get the cheapest, best possible products out there and that benefits all of society, because you think of people as customers. the democratic party has a different view which is about the economy as workers. >> i think they're on the side of companies. not customers. >> even customers have it your way. >> a very astute observation, which is why i wanted to get your thoughts. we have to go to break. coming up, bain with an i versus bane with an e. why the romney/batman connection is the latest in a growing line of conspiracy theories, next. uh, i'm in a timeout because apparently
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the villain in the "dark knight rises" is named bane. b-a-n-e. you may think it's ridiculous. this is the kind of stuff the obama team is lining up. and thinking it's going -- the kind of people who would draw this comparison are the kind of people that they are campaigning to. >> that's a new conspiracy theory from rush limbaugh. meanwhile, meanwhile, arizona sheriff joe arpaio has been plumbing the depths of hawaii and unearthed new findings regarding the president's birth certificate, two days before a doj trial in the sheriff's
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alleged civil rights violation is set to begin. arpaio held a newser yesterday to reassert the president's birth certificate is indeed a fake. >> believe that the certificate presented to the american public by the white house is a forgery. we said that several months ago. what i said on march 1, i will repeat it again. show us the microfilm. >> show us the microfilm. >> wow. you know, this is amazing, stunning. it's almost this ineffable ignorance that prevails in arizona is to just not be, you know, humane enough to admit when you fail at what you tried to do. it's been proved that the man's documentation is real. i guess he's a slave master asking the runaway slave about the black and to prove your papers. i'm tired of the detestation
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against this man's character. we are americans. this is nothing but naked racis liberals to call it out on that basis and stop -- >> well, this administration, the president's administration has given rise to a set of fringe conspiracy theories, whether it's christopher nolan being in cahoots with the obama campaign. >> i have another -- i would like to propose a conspiracy theory. rush limbaugh is in cahoots with the producers of "the dark knight." >> what about "spiderman." >> is there a jeremiah wright? >> i think rush did this to cover up what he said a couple days earlier, which was i think -- >> nobody remembers. >> i know. it worked. he went out and said finally, finally americans, we have proof of the most important thing facing this country. the president hates america. he's a radical socialist who hates america.
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i mean, that is basically the end game here for them, that he's black, he hates america, he wants to destroy america, wants to bring it down. forget about what happened the last two and a half years. go back to jeremiah wright, what he was smoking back in hawaii which sununu talked about the other day. they act as if this man has not been president, as if he's running for the first time and they still can define him as a threat to the country. >> they fully intend to bring up the president's past drug use as the romney campaign tries to play defense -- >> what was he smoking when he got bin laden? that what's i want to know. >> they are both asserting he's totally incompetent and orchestrating these insane hollywood deals -- >> i have an idea. >> if obama can orchestrate the production of films of that status, he needs to be dictator of the universe. >> he apparently can jump into the way-back machine in the
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early '90s when the character of bane was created in the "batman" series. michael eric dyson. after the break, shades of lockheed martin. they plead their case against defense cuts. next. [ kate ] many women may not be properly absorbing the calcium they take because they don't take it with food. switch to citracal maximum plus d.
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regardless of the blame game, the results are apparent. >> senate majority leader harry reid and minority leader mitch mcconnell argued for more than 40 minutes on the senate floor this morning over congressional dysfunction. their bitter back and forth was going on at the same time the head of lockheed martin was testifying before the house, warning of dire consequences if law makers can't reach a deal to stop half a trillion dollars worth of defense cuts from taking effect at the end of the year. >> in short, sequestration constitutes blunt force trauma. it's likely to tear the fabric of our industry, adversely affect our national security and impair our domestic agencies. >> it's not surprising to me that the head of lockheed martin is protesting against defense cuts, but what is interesting to me is how congressional republicans have sort of wrapped their arms around this and now made it an issue for the president to answer for. these are democratic sequestration, these cuts are on the shoulders of the president
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and democrats when in fact this is a bipartisan agreement. >> that's true enough. i'm not surprised, actually, for another reason that he's arguing against cuts because business people in general say that the biggest problem in terms of economic growth right now is gridlock in washington and partisan politics. i think that's what you're seeing now, just another example of that. >> let's play a little sound from chris van hollen on the daily rundown, talking about what the republicans are shanghaied by and then i will read you a quote from jon kyl talking about democrats. >> the republicans are so wedded to this pledge they signed not to the american people, but to grover norquist, that says they will fight one penny of elimination of tax breaks for the folks at the very top, even if that money goes to deficit reduction or protecting defense spending. >> okay. this is in politico, jon kyl from arizona of course saying of the super committee, i knew how difficult sequestration would be and i ended up supporting the overall budget deal.
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i couldn't conceive of people being so pigheaded, so stubborn, so willing to see our economy go up in flames as apparently our democratic friends are willing to be. i knew it would be political but i didn't think they would literally shoot the hostage. what do you make of that? >> well, this is turning everything up on its head. i wrote a little book about this, came out a few months ago. >> what's the book called? >> funny you should ask. "showdown." >> who published it? >> but it went into the debt deal and in the debt ceiling deal, one thing republicans agreed to, because they would not even for a moment think about raising taxes down the road, was these automatic defense cuts that also cuts into the domestic budget. they signed off on that. they agreed to that. there was plenty of times to debate. the president gave them other options including raising taxes on the rich. they decided not to do that and they were holding, what they were doing, holding the whole government hostage and they said we're going to go into default if you don't give us these cuts.
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so now that they're finally coming to fruition, they say you know what, didn't mean it. retroactively, we want to go back and do this all over again. >> favorite adverb of the week. >> you're missing the major point here. when senator kyl talked about shoot the hostage, that's a conspiracy theory i have of the relationship between jeff daniels, keanu reeves and "speed." >> okay. moving away from the hollywood blockbuster conspiracy theories, if you look at where the republican party is, in terms of the corner they seem to be painting themselves into, here we have the defense industry which for a long time has seemed like the ultimate bedfellow for conservatives. lockheed martin, you have them all trotting out to washington to talk about defense cuts which seems to be scaring the republican party in a way that nothing else has, that this -- >> but not enough to raise taxes. that's the thing. >> exactly. and it is incredibly telling to me that on the heels of this, the republican nominee for president wants to increase defense spending in a time of
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fiscal restraint. >> they're not going to talk about raising taxes in any way before november. i really think washington is stuck in reruns from now through november. it will be the same thing over and over again. they will change a few quotes, make things sound scarier but it will be the same thing. no one will give. >> what do we make of the fact that dick cheney went to the hill yesterday to speak with old friends. he said we're cutting $500 billion out of the defense budget. the sequester means another $500 billion. it's not strategic. it's crazy. we will talk more about the bushies back enter stage right. but dick cheney -- >> any time dick cheney rises out of his latest undisclosed location and gets any air time, it's probably a good thing for the democrats. his approval rating is probably lower than george bush's and you know, he doesn't engender a lot of popular support. >> i think you're missing -- >> this is twice i keep missing something. >> but i'm saying seriously here, i think the republicans are going for a guy who has
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testicular fortitude. they're trying to say here's a guy, no matter what his publicity was bad about, he stood for his principles, stood up and was seen as the darth vader of his particular era. i think that's a signal they're sending to other republicans, especially mitt romney, stand up. stand up. >> they do have mitt on the defensive stuff because he's been out there calling for -- >> he's going to spend 61% more than the current president is spending on defense if elected into office. i do think the optics here, if we're talking about a time when the republican party is arguing against cutting food stamp -- funding for food stamps and then on the same hand, is bringing lockheed martin in and dick cheney in and they got mitt romney as their candidate, message-wise, it is not -- >> they're showing toughness. i think that's what it's all about. it's a clear signal. i think they're gambling. >> there's something logical about the economic message that the republicans are putting forward on tax. for example, i wish we were talking less about tax because the only thing that's not going
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to spur growth is a tax cut. it hasn't worked for three years. it didn't work in 2001 when they were a much broader base. this is part and parcel of that. >> why not double down on a failing theory, though? >> why not. it will trickle down. >> we should note the house is expected to vote today on the sequestration transparency act of 2012. >> wow. wow. >> stay tuned for that. coming up, want some good news? don't ask ben bernanke. the fed chief's latest gloomy forecast and that looming fiscal cliff, next. ♪ ♪ i want to go ♪ i want to win [ breathes deeply ] ♪ this is where the dream begins ♪ ♪ i want to grow ♪ i want to try ♪ i can almost touch the sky [ male announcer ] even the planet has an olympic dream. dow is proud to support that dream by helping provide greener, more sustainable solutions from the olympic village to the stadium.
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morning warning law makers not to throw the economy over the cliff. for his second straight day of testimony on capitol hill, bernanke said that uncertainty about tax hikes and spending cuts is damaging an already fragile economic situation. we were talking about this, you know, earlier in the last block which is the uncertainty's a big deal. what's interesting is bernanke was putting less emphasis on europe and more emphasis on what's happening domestically in the u.s. >> yeah. it's all part and parcel of the same thing. if europe blows up it will still be a pretty bad deal for us, but what's really depressing is that we're on track no matter what for the 2% economy. that was the bad scenario a year ago. now -- >> 2% growth. >> 2% growth. now that's the new normal and what we're seeing the last three months of jobs numbers is not enough to keep unemployment even where it is right now. >> david, we talk about the nasty, nasty, nastiness in congress. there is a lot that they have on their plate, whether it's the expiration of the bush tax cuts, sequestration which we discussed, you know, all manner
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of concerns. >> don't forget the debt ceiling we hit again probably coming january. so all this -- this is what they call taxmageddon. the bush tax cuts, debt ceiling and sequestration. all happening at once. this congress is dysfunctional in part because of what hugo said earlier, not that i'm blaming you, but there's some tremendously different perspectives on what should be happening. the tea party republicans really believe that government is the problem, even though it didn't cause the meltdown, and that you got to cut taxes on the rich and you got to cut spending so you have a real drag on the economy that way and you don't close that fiscal gap, either, and the democrats want to do something different and they just can't find a way to compromise and you can have all this stuff happening at once. >> that's what the real problem is, by the way. most economists on either end of the spectrum will argue that in order to get things back on
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track, we need some sensible tax increases but also some entitlement reform. it's the inability -- >> which is the position obama has endorsed. >> it's the inability to get anybody to cooperate. we're again and again and again hitting these fiscal cliffs. that's the problem. >> what's interesting or not interesting, perhaps the more depressing handle on this is that we talk about what's happening in washington but what is happening in the state level is i think much more entrenched in terms of economic crisis. the "washington post" notes today that state and local governments have shed 611,000 employees since 2009 and that during the first quarter of this year, state and local government spending and investment decreased by 2.7%. this i thought really interesting. the state budget crisis task force says this is a fundamental shift in the way governments have responded to recessions and appears to signal a willingness to quote, unbuild state governments in a way that has not done before. this is the legacy -- >> i hate to be undepressing for a moment but what's perplexing to me is there's a lot of talk
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that the fiscal uncertainty, the conditions of the states and those kind of things, are creating this sort of environment of uncertainty that is making people put off spending. however, the housing market is showing signs of health and auto sales have been pretty strong, which given those are the two major bits of spending that normal americans do, it's pretty interesting that that's happening. i think it shows you actually some possibility of a stronger consumer environment than is widely talked about. doesn't mean good, doesn't mean strong. >> here's the problem, though. the thing is underneath all of this is a big argument about the federal government versus the states so that when you talk about what reverts to the states, there's this conservative resistance to the notion that big brother is over your back, don't tell us what to do here but at the same time you're starving the states which are dependent upon that federal money so you have a philosophical conundrum going on at the same time you have a downturn in the economy. >> what we are seeing in states across the country as the budget task force says, it's unwinding
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of social services, health care reform was compared to the holocaust and signed a bill reducing medicare coverage for thousands of people. in scranton, employees will be paid minimum wage. in san bernardino, you won't have trash collection. >> cities filing for bankruptcy. >> bernanke referred to this yesterday when he talked about a drag on the economy being government shedding jobs or reining in government spending too much. remember at the beginning of the tea party house republican congress, boehner was asked if you pass through this budget, you could lose 800,000 jobs, mainly public sector jobs, and he said too bad. >> right. >> those are 800,000 americans who are neighbors as well and also support consumer spending. so the republican party and conservatives are just really far afield from mainstream economists. >> jobs of school teachers, firefighters, and police people and so on, so they claim to be american. all this discourse about
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patriotism, what about economic patriotism? what about the commitment to those people who -- >> most of our -- what differentiates us from europe is actually cities, the growth that comes out of cities. we talk about cities going bankrupt, that's a real issue. >> worth noting 61,000 pennsylvania residents were just told they would lose $200 in monthly assistance payments to save $150 million. the practical realities of what is going on in terms of the fiscal crisis are staggering at the state level. after the break, a blast from the not so distant past. former president george w. bush resurfaces to talk about awesomeness? mitt romney and swamps. details next. last season was the gulf's best tourism season in years. in florida we had more suntans... in alabama we had more beautiful blooms... in mississippi we had more good times... in louisiana we had more fun on the water.
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powerful but i have no desire for fame and power anymore. >> the old guard is back for at least a visit. that was president george w. bush speaking in crawford, texas with the hoover institution. meanwhile as we mentioned, dick cheney was back in washington yesterday all while speculation flies about condoleezza rice as a potential vp choice for governor romney. let's just say bush's self-described axis of awesome is back together again. david corn, it is interesting, we have not seen much from the bushies of late. we have heard periodic peeps from jeb bush and george h.w. bush, who now seems so out of sync with the party line that they almost seem like moderate democrats. h.w. bush saying the rigidity of those pledges, the norquist pledge, is something i don't like. the circumstances change and you can't be wedded to some formula by grover norquist. it's who the hell is grover norquist, anyway, which is fighting words. >> i was expecting w. to say that. it was kind of cool, it was
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neat, it was massively rad being president. the interesting thing is as soon as a republican gets out of power, out of the white house, it seems that the next generation comes along and really mystifies them. george h.w. bush was mystified by the neocon hold on his son going into the iraq war. ronald reagan of course would be drummed out of the party for suggesting a 15% tax rate was too low. so there's a sort of evolution -- >> mythology is a different story. i think you're absolutely right there. this is this kind of nostalgia that is built upon corruption and amnesia. what we have to do is hold steady the notion that these guys were doing -- and lady -- were doing great things for america. we've got to deny every index that they were horrible, then we've got to reinvent them as great icons who are out of step with the bad republicans. >> i don't think the public is embracing them at this point.
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i don't think bush nostalgia has yet hit. >> he was kind of suggesting he didn't want to get back in it. i think he was like bowing out. >> i stepped out of the swamp and i don't want to step back into the swamp. >> that's the part we missed on the sound bite, stepped out of the swamp, calling washington a swamp. but it is -- >> he's certainly not doing what jimmy carter or bill clinton did. a lot of these guys stay in in a public policy way and jimmy carter of course became more popular for the good deeds he did after leaving office. >> that's the point about amnesia. it speaks to schizophrenia in the republican party as well. >> that is it. the notion that condi rice could potentially save -- >> they're just looking for the needle to start going back the other way. >> i say give bush credit for not wanting to step on obama's parade, so to speak, by always mouthing off what he thinks should have been done. >> he has cheney to do that. >> let's not forget, david corn,
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there is someone named karl rove who is absolutely in the wings and pulling the levers. >> rove -- >> if we talk about the congressional races, they are going to play heavy. >> of course. karl rove now is the republican establishment in terms of politics. what atwater was years ago. it doesn't matter, candidates come and go, presidents come and go but the establishment continues. that's karl rove. he's not a big mitt romney guy but he is a big super pac guy. and a dark money guy. so on the elections and the house and senate particularly, they will have tremendous impact there, perhaps more than the presidential race. >> the democrats have learned from them. what you're saying is that institutions matter, that the particular administrations come and go but you got to institutionalize your views. while i disagree bitterly with what he suggests, i think democrats on the other side got to get some of that moxie. >> do you think the democrats have done an adequate job in
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terms of embracing their forefathers? >> oh, my god. one of the definitions to be a democrat is to diss your forefather. one of the definitions, that old having a firing squad in a circle. so the reality is that we have a bit more self-critique as a result of that we don't lionize people the same way. but there is something to be said for useful lies and helpful mendacity. >> bill clinton setting aside surrogate-gate when we're talking about private equity has proved to be a pretty powerful voice on aggregate for the obama administration and there is a lot of halcyon days -- >> but alex, they don't love him and it's that politics of implication. it's the politics of suggestion. it's releasing a memo from james carville about what the president's doing wrong. dude, you got his number, call him. you've got access to the white house. you're trying to make a public performance for something bigger than -- >> at the top of the show, which i was watching, we saw every republican jump on mitt romney as well.
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so this is not just a democratic problem. it's all about -- >> talking about the stakes that are involved. >> it's all about now, not just "now with alex wagner" but the thing, interesting thing about george w. bush, though, is that this has been i think one of the quickest fades out of a presidency into irrelevance both because of ideology, being out of step with the party, and his own personal choice. he sits around reading books about baseball which is fine but having once led the free world and having gotten us into a couple of wars, he seems at peace with the idea of like okay, i'm out of here. >> to some degree, i think to some degree that's because in a weird way, george bush should have been commissioner of baseball, and never president of the united states. >> retroactively let's go back and do that. >> retroactively retire him. coming up, a phone company's defiant act sheds new light on the government's patriot act power. but the justice department is firing back. we'll tap into that, next.
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welcome back. time for "what now." the "wall street journal" is reporting this a u.s. phone company was served by the fbi with a national security letter to turn over customer records. the phone company is fighting the letter on constitutional grounds and now the u.s. justice department has filed a civil complaint against the company. david corn, the civil liberties question is a very loaded one in this day and age, certainly one that the president -- i think in terms of scrutiny from the left, i think to a large part, he hasn't faced what may be a republican president would face given the policies that he's continued or racheted up. this, a very interesting case. >> national security letters are probably one of the least understood elements of some of the patriot act, in which the fbi can sort of give you a
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subpoena without going to a judge and you're not allowed to tell anyone you got it, which includes sometimes going to court. so the fact that a phone company, so they went to the phone company to get some records on some subject of an investigation, and they told the phone company you have to give it to us, you can't appeal this, you can't tell anyone you got this note. the phone company, we don't know which one, went and -- went to court and said we don't want to do this, we want you to come to us with a proper subpoena. this will probably wind its way up through the court system and could become really major precedent setting on a case that really is about the fbi's core power. >> it's interesting, between 2003 and 2006, hugo, the fbi sent 192,499 national security letters. stephen vladik is a professor of terrorism at washington college of law, says this case raises a question congress has been trying to answer. how do you protect the first amendment rights of a nsl recipient at the same time as you protect the government's
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interests in secrecy. >> it just raises a question of what people's tolerance levels are going to be in terms of the civil liberties issues. it is' been obviously a long time since an attack in the united states here and the question what is are people willing to tolerate. you see it already obviously at the airport. people are really sick and tired. >> it seems so arbitrary. the thing you can't figure out if there was some rhyme or reason, you could figure it out, but what i'm mad at, i can't get the darned phone company to give me records for six months. how in the heck are they complying with these -- what the heck's wrong? >> hugo's point is a good one. however true or false sense of security that we have, the administration would certainly tell you hey, reason you guys feel secure is because we have been getting, we have been very aggressive in our pursuit of terrorist networks. >> i think defense-wise, the focus is actually shifting away from the middle east, away from terrorism, shifting to asia. that will present other issues. i think people's tolerance will
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not be what it was. >> speaking of the administration, the administration is proposing a national teachers corps to reward the best teachers in science, engineering and math. it will start by rewarding 50 s.t.e.m. teachers with a stipend of up to $20,000 with the hopes of expanding within ten years. sounds like a great idea. >> my kids go to public school outside of washington, d.c. we had a great science teacher there who was doing science labs once a week, once every other week and her hours got cut. she got cut like three days a week. we try to raise money privately just to augment her salary and you can't do that for all sorts of legitimate reasons. >> you can't? >> you can't. then you have favoritism to certain teachers, it gets very messy. but anything that keeps her in that job and gets the other teachers, you know, in the industry and to stay there -- >> but you got to stem the tide of the brain drain of urban
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teachers as well into these more elite schools. that would be a heck of a program. >> the program would be funded with $1 billion from the 2013 fiscal budget requests which of course is subject to congressional approval so you know it's going to die there. amazing that something like science, technology and math, which have bipartisan support, we talk about the economy of the future. >> it's the one thing you can be sure will cause some growth because guess what, that's where the glut of jobs are. this is one area where there's going to be more jobs than we can actually fill. >> if one party is against science, s.t.e.m. ain't their high priority. >> this is true. one party is for shutting down the department of education. really quickly, after a two year review the boy scouts of america are continuing with their long-standing policy of denying membership to gay scouts and gay scout leaders. i will read the statement from boy scouts ceo. the vast majority of the parents of youth we serve to value their right to address issues of same sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisors and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.
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we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society. what do you think of that, hugo? >> i think it's regrettable. i guess the boy scouts are in a really tight spot and did the wrong thing. >> what's interesting is that they got gay scout leaders. you have gay scouts. you just won't acknowledge them. they're there. they're performing, doing well. they're thrifty, clean, brave, clean and reverent, doing everything the scouts would honor as a value, yet they can't be explicit and honest about it. that's a kind of dishonesty the boy scouts should be ashamed of. >> it is worth noting the girl scouts do not discriminate against gays and lesbians. we will end it there. >> they understand their cookies. >> we will leave it there. thanks to all of you. that's all for now. see you back at noon eastern, 9:00 a.m. pacific. until then, find us on facebook. "andrea mitchell reports" is next. good afternoon, andrea.
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hi. thanks so much, alex. coming up next, we'll talk to bill richardson from the democratic side and andrea saul from the romney campaign, both talking about all the mudslinging that's going back and forth. and the disaster of the drought. the agriculture secretary coming direct from his meeting with the president on this growing crisis. that and a lot more. we hear that chris christie will be the keynoter. what are the implications of that? stay tuned for "andrea mitchell reports." i've ever driven. i bought the car because of its efficiency. i bought the car because i could eliminate gas from my budget. i don't spend money on gasoline. it's been 4,000 miles since my last trip to the gas station. it's pretty great. i get a bunch of kids waving at me... giving me the thumbs up. it's always a gratifying experience. it makes me feel good about my car. i absolutely love my chevy volt. ♪ you walk into a conventional mattress store, it's really not about you.
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